Batman Returns

Batman Returns (1992)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Michael Keaton,. Michelle Pfeiffer, Danny DeVito, Christopher Walken, Michael Gough
Extras: Commentary Track, Documentaries, Featurettes, Music Video, Trailer

Fans had been clamoring for a re-release of the Batman movies as Special Editions but for years Warner Brothers ignored their requests. Now, to support the DVD release of the latest installment of the franchise, "Batman Begins," the studio has prepared 2-disc Special Editions of all four previous films and I decided to give Tim Burton's 1991 film "Batman Returns" a check-up.

Out of all the Batman movies, to me "Batman Returns" is the best of them all. To me, it reflects the original look and feel of the Batman comics more than the other films in the franchise and features great characters with intrigue and drama, as well as a production design that gives the movie a gloomy dark atmosphere. This is what Batman comics looked like in my head after my imagination had filled in all the blanks and Tim Burton simply nailed it.

"Batman Returns" tells the story of Batman (Michael Keaton) facing the challenges of Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) and the Penguin (Danny DeVito) – both, of course, characters from the original comic book series. We see how Catwoman is coming to life, we get some backstory on the Penguin and his plans to destroy Batman. With an intricate plot he is dismantling Batman's reputation and plans to become mayor of Gotham City with the help of the wealthy industrialist Max Schreck (Christopher Walken).

The transfer of the movie that Warner serves up on this DVD is wonderfully clean and detailed. There is not a speckle in sight in this anamorphic widescreen presentation and the image definition reveals details and texture nuances that I had never before noticed – not even in theaters. Color reproduction is also wonderfully rich with string hues that are never oversaturated. Skin tones are faithfully rendered and black levels are rock solid, creating deep shadows that don't break up and serve perfectly to create the stark, almost expressionist, look of the movie. No edge-enhancement or compression artifacts distract form the viewing experience, making "Batman Returns" are wonderful experience.

The audio on the release comes as a 5.1 channel Dolby Digital track, as well as a dts track. The audio is clear and rich, with a wide frequency response that offers solid bass extension and crystal clear high ends. Danny Elfman's remarkable score nicely benefits from this presentation as his instrumentation of the score oftentimes juxtaposes extremely low registers with instruments playing in high registers, to create his unique signature sound. In this audio presentation it is coming to life like never before with a clarity and transparency that is ear-opening.
Surround channels are used to good effect to add to the action and the bustling that goes on on the screen. Dialogues are well integrated and always understandable.

Tim Burton has provided a commentary track for the movie and he engages listeners in many aspects of the production, including the technical challenges – remember that there were no digital special effects in those days – as well as his cast.

"The Bat, The Cat And The Penguin" is a 22-minute featurette hosted by Robert Urich that was created to promote the theatrical release of the film in 1992. It features cast interviews and behind-the-scenes footage from the film to whet people's appetites. Sadly the presentation quality of the featurette is not very good. The image is washed out and lacks definition throughout.

"Shadows Of The Bat" is one part of a multi-part documentary that can be found on each of the new Batman Special Editions. On this release the featurette takes a look at Batman's dark side. Running for 30-minutes cast and crew members discuss elements that make the Batman character unique, interesting and challenging.

"Beyond Batman" is a six-part documentary that takes a look at some of the movie's major aspects, such as the movie's production design, the creation of the costumes for the characters, the Penguin make-up, the visual effects , the music and others. It is a recent production and gives the participants the chance to actually reflect on the making of the movie.

"Face To Face," the music video by Siouxsie And The Banshees is also included as well as some featurettes about the heroes and villains found in the movie. The release is rounded out by the movie's theatrical trailer.

"Batman Returns" is still a marvelous film that has maintained all of its magic over the years. Michael Keaton made the best Batman in my opinion, and the dark atmosphere of the movie perfectly captured the flair of the comic books. It is great to see that finally it has been given proper treatment on DVD with this Special Edition, offering not only a spectacular presentation of the film but also a selection of great bonus materials that ill keep every fan enthralled.